Thumbs up for Economic Growth Coun­cil

... Union wants it to keep door on lo­gis­tics open

Jamaica Gleaner - - GROWTH & JOBS - Jo­van Johnson Staff Reporter

ONE OF the coun­try’s ma­jor unions, the Ja­maica Civil Ser­vice As­so­ci­a­tion (JCSA), is rais­ing ques­tions about the role of Ja­maica’s lo­gis­tics ef­forts in the plans of the Economic Growth Coun­cil (EGC).

“The ar­eas that we see them fo­cus­ing on, we do think, from the trade union move­ment, that they can grow the econ­omy. I think there are some other ar­eas that we (Ja­maica) started and did quite a bit of work on – but they have not fea­tured strongly in the EGC – such as the lo­gis­tics-cen­tred en­vi­ron­ment,” JSCA pres­i­dent, O’Neil Grant told The Gleaner.

He was speak­ing fol­low­ing last week’s sign­ing of the dec­la­ra­tion of in­tent by the EGC, Prime Min­is­ter Andrew Hol­ness, and rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the trade union move­ment and pri­vate sec­tors. They sym­bol­i­cally agreed to the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the plans.

Hol­ness es­tab­lished the EGC in April with a man­date to drive economic growth by achiev­ing five per cent growth in gross do­mes­tic prod­uct (GDP) in four years – 2020-2021.

The coun­cil has sub­mit­ted a pro­posal with eight goals: main­tain­ing macroe­co­nomic sta­bil­ity and pur­su­ing debt-re­duc­tion strate­gies; im­prov­ing cit­i­zen se­cu­rity; im­prov­ing ac­cess to finance; pur­su­ing bu­reau­cratic re­form; im­prov­ing the busi­ness en­vi­ron­ment; build­ing hu­man cap­i­tal; and catalysing the im­ple­men­ta­tion of strate­gic projects.

Though the lo­gis­tics fo­cus may fall into “strate­gic projects”, the Gov­ern­ment has not been tout­ing the ben­e­fits of the project like the pre­vi­ous Peo­ple’s National Party ad­min­is­tra­tion did. Nu­mer­ous mis­steps cul­mi­nat­ing in the Krauck and An­chor saga ap­pear to have af­fected the pub­lic’s appetite for the projects. The multi­bil­lion­dol­lar in­vest­ment with that in­vestor never mater­tialise.

COMMITMENT TO BUILD PORT

Nonethe­less, there was work on spe­cial economic zones and a commitment to fa­cil­i­tate the build­ing of a trans-ship­ment port by Chi­nese in­vestors.

Grant in­sisted that the Gov­ern­ment should push the lo­gis­tics-cen­tred econ­omy. “I would love to see that that is a strong fea­ture in any­thing go­ing for­ward be­cause quite a bit of work has been done.”

“I can as­sume that they are not go­ing to throw ev­ery­thing out the window. That they are go­ing to be hav­ing some short­term plans that are go­ing to yield the five in four – they are looking at tourism, they are looking at man­u­fac­tur­ing, they are looking at cre­at­ing cer­tain jobs in the busi­ness process out­sourc­ing (BPO) sec­tor,” he said.

The union leader said his as­so­ci­a­tion, which rep­re­sents more than 12,000 gov­ern­ment work­ers, would work with the coun­cil. “Peo­ple seem en­thused,” he said.

Work­ing with the coun­cil was a key charge from the In­ter­na­tional Mone­tary Fund in a state­ment last Fri­day an­nounc­ing its ap­proval of a three-year US$1.64 bil­lion StandBy Ar­range­ment (SBA) “to sup­port the au­thor­i­ties’ con­tin­ued economic re­form agenda”. That agree­ment re­places the cur­rent four-year ex­tended fund fa­cil­ity that is due to ex­pire in March next year.

The EGC, chair­man, Michael Lee-Chin, had ar­gued that the new deal would be im­por­tant to pre­vent Ja­maica ‘back­slid­ing’ on re­forms as well as give the “dis­ci­pline” to carry-out out the work nec­es­sary to achieve the five in four.

The IMF said col­lab­o­ra­tion was key to achiev­ing the tar­gets. “Ev­ery ef­fort is needed, in col­lab­o­ra­tion with de­vel­op­ment part­ners, to ex­e­cute the struc­tural growth re­forms rec­om­mended by the au­thor­i­ties’ Economic Growth Coun­cil. Re­sources will have to be redi­rected to com­bat crime and en­sure national se­cu­rity. Eas­ing of growth bot­tle­necks will fa­cil­i­tate stronger pri­vate sec­tor job cre­ation as the Gov­ern­ment re­fo­cus and stream­lines its role.”

The Hol­ness Cab­i­net has not yet signed off on the specifics of the EGC’s pro­pos­als that the Gov­ern­ment will pur­sue.

The prime min­is­ter stressed at the sign­ing that the plans were “pro-poor” and would reach marginalised Ja­maicans.

GRANT

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